Tanara McCauley

Culturally Imagined Stories

The Cookie Jar

“A cookie jar, though beautiful, will always disappoint if found empty.”

My cookie jar is empty.

It’s seen a batch or two–maybe–in the months since I returned home from Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference; but for the most part it’s been unoccupied. Relieved of duty. Free of tenants.

And for a while I blamed my husband.

See, we had a plan. As you probably know from a previous post, my youngest daughter started kindergarten this year, freeing up my afternoons. And according to the plan I would take the first year to write full time with keys blazing and submissions flying.

But somehow in my short, five-day conference absence the plan changed. Just up and flew away somewhere. Out there. Over the rainbow. And in its place: “You need to finish your degree.”

Say wha?

My arguments against this new scheme raged vehement. Very artistic and author-ish too. Something about sensible suits and academic labels, the futility of human standards of achievement, the colors of my creative mind fading…you get the picture. When that failed I took the practical financial approach.

Nothing worked. God has a new plan, saith my husband, and a degree for the missus therein lies.

Well alrighty then, Misters.

That was six months ago. I saw evidence of God’s hand in the orchestration, including a ripple effect in other areas. Then I discovered I could finish much earlier than expected. I snatched that baton and sprinted off with it. On top of that aim I added honor student. And because a writer must always be reading and writing I made sure to check those boxes too. Super productive. No time for baking cookies.

I felt very much like degree people feel. Accomplished. Potentially important. But in what way? And to whom?

The answers came when my son returned home one night from Awana with a list of two things he wanted to do better. One of them read:

Leave Mommy alone when she’s doing homework.


Reading those words made me consider how many times I’ve said them in the past six months, and how many times I haven’t played Terraria with my son, or done Zumba with the girls, or watched My Little Pony, or baked the weekend’s cookies; all because I’d immersed myself in God’s plan–stretching it into something self-serving–instead of remaining immersed in God who keeps my priorities straight.

My kids are awesome little people. I’m proud of them. And if I graduated summa cum laude and became a bestselling author whose books hit the big screen they’d be proud of me too. And all of it would be a pretty package to behold.

But if the intimacy is not there, if I don’t remain a present, attentive mother who knows them and is known by them–who keeps school and writing and whatever else comes up out of family time–then what we’re headed for is no better than an empty cookie jar.

And that will never be a part of God’s plan.

My jar is still empty, but now it’s only because the cookies are cooling.

Your turn: Have you ever found yourself running ahead (or away) from what God’s doing in your life?

10 responses to “The Cookie Jar”

  1. Wonderful, insightful, and thought provoking post, Tanara! Loved reading it because I can hear your voice! 🙂 Love you!


  2. Oh, my. I started my degree just before my 30th birthday, a single mom with 2 kids. I finished it with a new husband, 3 kids, and 2 step kids. My cookie jar was empty a lot. I don’t regret getting my degree. But I do regret all the missed opportunities to be present with my kids. Loved this post.


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